MOREHEAD CITY — Atlantic Beach officials are facing a dilemma: allow commercial uses along the Atlantic Beach Causeway to be phased out or provide wastewater infrastructure to the business corridor.
The town council met Friday, with Councilman Harry Archer absent, for its annual planning retreat at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City. During the retreat, the council discussed planning considerations for the Atlantic Beach Causeway district, which goes from the foot of the Atlantic Beach bridge to the intersection of Fort Macon Road, serving as a gateway to the town from Morehead City.
Mayor Trace Cooper informed the council he and town staff have been looking at the dimensions of the lots along the causeway. This was spurred by a request from causeway corridor property owner Bill Downey and his business associates to reduce the minimum lot width for lots along the corridor from 60 feet to 50 feet in order to allow them to qualify for an exemption from state septic system setback requirements.
Mayor Cooper said, however, this exemption will only apply to single-family residential uses with no more than four bedrooms. Commercial uses don’t quality, and with an average depth of 120 feet, none of the lots along the causeway can meet existing state septic tank setbacks.
This means the existing commercial buildings on the causeway, while grandfathered, couldn’t be replaced with a new commercial building.
“We’re trying to incentivize commercial use on the causeway,” the mayor said Friday. “It’s our commercial corridor, it always has been. We want to make sure it doesn’t go all residential.
“We don’t have to decide today, but we will have to make a decision,” the mayor continued. “Are we going to only allow residential on the causeway or are we going to try to find a solution to allow commercial?”
Ultimately, a solution would likely mean either building a new wastewater package treatment plant for the causeway corridor or making use of excess capacity from one or more of the 11 existing package plants in Atlantic Beach. Mayor Cooper said he’ll speak with the owners of the package plants and bring their responses back to the council.
The council seemed to want to continue supporting commercial uses along the causeway. However, members acknowledged wastewater infrastructure would be met with some opposition from residents. Previous proposals to create a wastewater system for the commercial districts in town weren’t well received, with many residents at the time saying they didn’t want to be taxed or charged fees for a system they wouldn’t use.
“While people will worry about the effects of a wastewater solution,” Mayor Cooper said, “I think they’ll worry (more) about the eventual loss of commercial uses along the causeway. … For the causeway to develop in a meaningful way, it’s something we’ve got to consider.”
Councilman Rich Johnson seemed supportive of providing wastewater infrastructure.
“If we want the causeway to develop in any modern way, there’s got to be a wastewater infrastructure,” he said. “I don’t have the answers on where to locate it or how much it will cost, but we can’t put it on individual property owners to handle this.”
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.